Hachinohe leaders honor Misawa's Operation Tomodachi contributions

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Recently, I had the privilege of representing Misawa Airmen at a charity dinner hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Hajime Izumiyama. Representing the Navy at the dinner was the Commanding Officer of Naval Air Facility Misawa, Navy Capt. Chris Rodeman and his wife. Army Capt. Jason Quash and his wife attended on behalf of Misawa Soldiers.

Mr. Izumiyama is a prominent businessman in Hachinohe; he owns many different companies. As such, he and his family have close ties to the local area. The purpose of the dinner was to thank the members of Team Misawa for their efforts to help Hachinohe and the surrounding communities after last year's earthquake and tsunami. The five of us were humbled to receive his invitation to be the honored guests for the evening.

The event also raised money for Hachinohe Relief. The room was filled to maximum capacity and I'm told guests paid a sizeable fee per plate to attend. As the honored guests, it would have been culturally inappropriate for us to ask to pay for the meal, so we made a modest donation from Misawa Air Base to Hachinohe Relief instead. Many key business owners and government leaders were in attendance, including the honorable Mayor Makoto Kobayashi of Hachinohe, and the vice governor of Aomori prefecture, Ikuo Sasaki.

It was a first-class evening with an American style, multi-course meal that included prime rib flown in from the U.S., clam chowder and even Misawa-Air-Base-style pizza (that may have been from Anthony's, but we didn't know for sure.) Live entertainment featured a well-known singer from southern Japan who was terrific at singing mostly American songs. I've done a lot of socializing with our Japanese hosts while representing Airmen over the years, and this was as nice as any event I have been to.

So, here's the point: actions speak louder than words. That dinner was Mr. and Mrs. Izumiyama's way of showing their deep and sincere appreciation for what Americans did for them and their country. Mr. Izumiyama wanted to do more than simply say it; he wanted to show us how he felt. It was a way for all of the attendees to show Team Misawa their gratitude. Although we were the honored guests, the event was not at all a dinner for the five of us who attended. It was, more poignantly, a message of thanks from the leaders of Hachinohe to all of you, the service members and families of Misawa Air Base. We were just the deliverymen.

So please allow me to deliver their message.

Thank you so very much for your support in Japan's time of need. Your service will be remembered and honored for a very long time.

I wish you all could have been there with us, but I was honored to represent our Airmen. I know Capt. Rodeman and Capt. Quash were honored to represent their services as well. I am very proud of the "kizuna" (bond) we have with our Japanese friends here in northern Japan and believe that it is strategically important to our military mission. Thank you for continuing to keep it strong.